Introduction Europe and worldeconomies are moving towards a knowledge based economy and a knowledgesociety. This is the goal for Europe’s2020 view of how the economy will operate. Although Ireland is reaching its targets in education, inequalitiesexist and have always existed. Thetargets reached do not reflect the overall inclusivity of the educationsystem. This essay puts forward that aTwo Tiered system of education exists and is expanding in which the lowerclasses are being left behind. It isalso put forward as to why the education system is central to the reproductionof inequality within the context of cultural capital. We examine the Hidden Curriculum and itsimpact on inequality as well as looking at a more activist theory ofreproduction in Willis’ (1977) “Learning to Labour”.
The Europe 2020 strategy wasdesigned to address the economic and financial crisis that had wiped out yearsof economic and social progress, while also exposing what were considered to beweaknesses in the economy of Europe. Thethree main goals in the Europe 2020 paper were Smart Growth, Sustainable Growthand Inclusive Growth. It is believedthat each person should have the opportunity to reach their educational potentialfor personal, and economic reasons and education is a critical factor inpromoting social inclusion and economic development. Within the Inclusive Growth sphere, it isnoted that the EU has a goal to reduce school dropouts to under 10% and for 40%of 30 year olds to have completed third level education.
Ireland is over its target for third leveleducation with 52% of 30-34 year olds having attained a third leveleducation. Yet there is a greatdisparity in where these people come from, places in Dublin like Ranelagh andDartry have a 99% rate of college progression (HEA, 2014) from schools whereasstudents from less well off areas would have a college progression rate ofunder 20% (Social Justice Ireland, 2015). Inequalities exist if one person of a certain post code will almostcertainly succeed in the education system whereas another person in a lessdesirable post code almost certainly will not.
This will be examined under a few sociological lenses. The specific role of sociology ofeducation is to study the relationship between cultural reproduction and socialreproduction. This happens when it seeksto determine the contribution made by the educational system to thereproduction of the structure of power relationships between classes, bycontributing to the production of the structure of the distribution of culturalcapital among these classes. Whileconsiderable progress has been made through the implementation of a wide rangeof measures to address educational disadvantage, rates of educationalunder-achievement and early school leaving remain much higher for pupils fromdisadvantaged communities than for other pupils. This situation is a primarymotivating factor for the action now being taken.
For example, children fromindustry or farm worker families attain lower education than children fromhigher social strata in all developed countries (Gambetta, 1987). In otherwords, education is reproduced from generation to generation. Lifelong Learning in the Knowledge EconomyBrine (2006) hasfound that a two tiered system of education has formed in conjunction with theEU’s knowledge economy. There is now amarked gap between a high knowledge-skilled learner and a low knowledge-skilledlearner, ie, those in higher education (high knowledge skilled) and those infurther education (low knowledge skilled). It is maintained that the low knowledge skilled workers are a problemfor the EU, as they are most likely to be marginalized within the system, theseinclude, ethnic minorities, long term unemployed and ex offenders.
The failure to assimilate into society as awhole places these low knowledge people as at risk to the high knowledgesociety as well as the political and ruling classes. Brine (2006) maintains that this trend willcontinue with adult and further education being a tool to marginalize the lowerclass further. This unfortunately doesnot fit in with the EU 2020 vision ofinclusive growth, in which education promotes a high employment economydelivering social and territorial cohesion.Learning to LabourIn Paul Willis’important sociological book Learning to Labour, Working class jobs for WorkingClass boys (Willis, 1977), he details the lives of 12 working class boys in theirsecond to last year in school. Theseboys, who Willis refers to as ‘lads’ created their own counter school culturewithin the school, seeing themselves as more authorative than their teachers. The whole purpose of school, in the ‘lads’perspective was simply ‘to have a laff. They did not see any merit in school attainment, they simply wanted toleave school to become labourers. Willis claimed that this counterculture allowed ‘the lads’ to see through what the capitalist society demandsfrom them.
Willis claims that the schools role in social reproduction is not merelyin some dominant and invincible institution, but also in cultural formsproduced by the lads in their resistance to the authority of the schoolsystem. Lads who penetrate the uncertaintyof the relationship between teacher and pupil actually experience a sense ofpower themselves. It is not thereforethe hidden curriculum of school structure which is most important rather thehidden curriculum of pupil resistances which must be understood if the dynamicof social and cultural reproduction can be explained (Lynch, 1989)The HiddenCurriculumBowles and Gintis (1976) put forward a theorythat education merely replaces the labour power in the economy. Bowles and Gintis found that schoolsoverarching reach was to teach students about discipline and hierarchy as partof an obedient and submissive workforce. They maintained that capitalism demanded a docile, fragmented and subservientworkforce. Creative thought is ofteneducated out of the students, with over 95% of students performing well atcreativity tests prior to going to school and this number diminishes asstudents go through school eventually reaching under 10% (Robinson, 2006). It is postulated that creativity needs to beeliminated to produce an obedient workforce. The hidden curriculum dictates that students learn to accept curriculumand syllabus without question, as well as accepting authority figures such asteachers and principals.
Just like inthe workforce, workers would be expected to accept work orders without questionand also accept their authority figure, their boss, without any question. The reward system also bears an uncannysimilarity, in the workforce, wages are rewards whereas in educationqualifications are used to entice performance. The education system is also beginning to be used in order to make theworkforce desperate and in need of a job with lower wages with the increasingof student debt upon students. CulturalCapitalCultural reproduction denotes the ways inwhich schools help continue social and economic inequalities (Giddens, 2007). Schools reinforce variations in culturalvalues and outlooks picked up in early life, when children leave school. The principal external purpose which theschool serves is cultural and social reproduction. Bordieu (1979) sees the education system as being directlyinvolved with the continuance of class inequalities.
Bordieu also mentions habitus, habitus is asystem of schemes of thought, perception and action which reflects the materialand symbolic interests of the dominant class group. It allows them to make sense of the world The habitus of working class life is would bequite different from that of middle and upper classes, yet it does not generatethe same cultural capital necessary for the success at school. Pupils from lower backgrounds learn veryquickly in school that their objective chances of success is low.